Can the United States be Reformed?
Thank effing goodness — a cop is finally convicted of murder for murdering someone!
Yet it took a nationwide uprising after a video showing Derek Chauvin — abetted by three other cops who will hopefully receive their due soon— executing an unarmed suspect who posed no danger to anyone to force a conviction.
White Americans are celebrating as if this is some kind of milestone for racial healing, but the truth is that if it takes a 10-minute video showing a crowd pleading for a doomed man’s life as he calls out for his mother, the United States of America is damned, and deserves to be.
Americans are probably the world’s worst people, not because they’re inherently bad, but because they are trained to be by a wicked, frankly evil system. This is not a democracy, far from it — but there is no shortage of self-proclaimed “Experts” wielding PhDs awarded by other people with PhDs with zero public oversight who will insist otherwise, but their own “science” is little more than a culturally-specific adaptation of a racist philosophical tradition deployed to justify the status quo that benefits them.
The fact that Chauvin’s conviction was in doubt for a nanosecond is itself evidence of how warped America is. One cop being held responsible is great, but it sure didn’t save the life of the teenage girl, Ma’Khia Bryant, killed by police in Columbus, or Robert Delgado in Portland.
America as a nation will never escape the stain of slavery so long as Black Americans fear being murdered by the police, just as it will never escape the stain of genocide so long as members of the First Nations are deprived social and economic justice. White Americans can pretend until the cows come home that voting Democrat and posting memes constitutes action against racism, but that’s our privilege — we’re rarely the ones getting killed.
Wealthy white suburbanite Americans remain the most potent political force in the country, their power now balanced only by the people taking to the streets and threatening to do damage unless things change. Which is why at every opportunity they and the “thought leaders” American education trains students to respect twist and spin facts to whitewash their participation in America’s long tradition of being incredibly evil.
There is a reason that Hitler was obsessed with America, emulating its Westward expansion as he sent his Nazi armies East. China too is actively mimicking America’s development, colonizing and reshaping its own western frontiers in Tibet and Xinjiang.
Derek Chauvin is the true face of white America. Smug, unrepentant to the last, self-righteous and always refusing to admit guilt. The United States is a nation founded on the wealthy and powerful having a thousand tools to avoid being held responsible for anything they do, regardless of the consequences to other people.
Virtually every shred of the “history” Americans are taught in school is a self-serving lie, a deliberate effort to create a mythology of exceptionalism to excuse and justify white supremacy so long as those who benefit from it most play a cruel game of publicly pretending to care while privately blaming victims for being victimized. Hell, even the Covid pandemic has been handled the same way: leaders across the country spend most of their time pleading with people to follow rules voluntarily — allowing these craven hacks to effectively blame people for getting sick.
The brutal hell of the Chauvin verdict is that white Americans and the media at large will feel comfortable moving on, saying justice has been done. But they won’t take measures that might actually prevent the next Derek Chauvin from killing the next George Floyd — in a year or two the same thing will happen, only because it won’t be as egregious thanks to cops knowing they can get caught on tape so it won’t generate widespread protests.
Lack of sanction will send a message that the Chauvin prosecution was an outlier. And the cycle will repeat, just like it did after Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice and Sandra Bland and and and…
America is a nation maintained by false memories. No one in a position of power is held accountable and systemic problems go unfixed. The issue permeates every fabric of American social life. The military, lauded because everyone fears being called unpatriotic, is a hidebound bureaucratic mess that soaks up more than $2,000 per American every year but can’t win a war against dudes with AK-47s and improvised bombs (as a former soldier from a family with a long military tradition, this in particular galls me). There is no national healthcare system, so the well-off get good insurance and care and everyone else are left to suffer.
The two parties are both in it for the profit, the country’s leaders cynical geriatrics who are going to re-fight the 1960s until the Boomer generation is dead. And if you don’t commit to joining either the Democrat or Republican coalition then closely toe the ideological line, you don’t get to have a voice.
America is anarchy. That’s the brutal secret to the thing. It is and will always be a settler-colony at heart, with a government focused solely on creating space for economic interests to do their thing and brushing off the human costs. Neoliberalism and Neoconservatism are slowly merging into a single ruling movement that aims to prevent people who aren’t wealthy or affiliated with one wing of a major party from having a meaningful impact on national policy. The wealthy can do what they will, the poor suffer what they must.
The sad truth is that America probably should die. Self-described patriotic Americans are apologists for decades of vicious exploitation. The two parties have carved the country up into gerrymandered territories and forced individuals and businesses alike to spend money to access the political system. Leaders from either, whether Trump or Biden, actively deceive the American public in order to further the Forever Civil War that keeps Americans at each other’s throats and unable to organize to dismantle a broken system.
The United States of America stands as the single most decisive impediment to positive change in the world today. Party officials on both sides and media pundits actively invest in any national problem to prevent the emergence of real solutions, because the parties both benefit from everything being part of the grand conflict. Each Party functions as a patronage network you have to pay to defend your interests if you want to make it in America. Big companies can afford to pay these costs and so have gained the ability to dominate national policy, rigging it against small businesses and consumers.
Then on the flip side, public discussion of possible solutions to the problems created by this mess is swiftly locked down. Every issue is reduced to a simple binary, with no middle ground, no room for compromise, and ultimately the two acceptable solutions are colonized by one party or the other.
Pick the issue you care about — Black Lives Matter, Climate Change, LGBT+ rights, and go back a few years to see how people were talking about it in the past. If you do this a lot, the pattern soon emerges: lots of ideas emerge, soon all those requiring systemic change acquire a negative label and are forced out of mainstream discussion.
“Defund the Police” is a perfect example. At first, the slogan was intended as a way to simply convey a reasonable idea: shift funding from active policing, since that winds up meaning over-policing of Black communities since white people tend to be wealthier and have more pull over police policy. Start pulling over lots of people for air fresheners on the rear-view mirror in rich neighborhoods, and you’re going to generate a ton of annoying complaints from people with the knowledge and ability to prosecute them. Do it in a poorer neighborhood, and you are more likely to get away with it.
It also encapsulated a demand for having an intermediary step before calling armed officers to handle problems. Most day-to-day police work doesn’t actually need to be done by armed officers. In countries like Britain the police long ago realized they were better off not carrying guns at all. Disarming most police, leaving SWAT teams to handle truly violent situations, winds up making everyone safer because fewer guns means fewer accidents that in the USA are too often fatal.
Americans, trained by their media to think that gunfights are basically normal for cops (which is absolutely not the case), don’t realize that the presence of a police officer with a gun automatically escalates a situation. A criminal knows they have to disable or kill that officer to have any chance of escaping jail time. Officers know this too, so they are on high alert whenever they engage with a civilian. That’s a recipe for accidents, especially in a society with a deeply entrenched culture of discrimination — and because most police encounters aren’t with violent criminals this fear leads to a needlessly hostile obsession with “controlling the situation.”
Mistaking soldiers for cops is fucking stupid. There’s no other way to put it —thousands of Americans, disproportionately Black or mentally disabled, are slain by police officers every year. That’s a sign of a counter-insurgency effort, not true policing, and if they weren’t carrying guns the death toll would be substantially lower.
But verbal opposition to “Defund the Police” has become a way for Democrats to appeal to the (still predominantly white) suburban electorate while still pretending care about the lives of murdered Black people who should never have died. Instead, they propose a bunch of half-assed legislative fixes intended to boost accountability which is good, but insufficient.
Good, but insufficient, pretty much sums up the Democratic Party’s approach to a range of issues. Climate Change policy in particular is going to have an outsized impact on everyone’s future, and even a 1.5C increase in average global temperatures this century will be catastrophic — but that is the absolute best case scenario given current plans, like the broken Paris Accord.
It is bitterly ironic to see scathing articles written decrying Climate “Doomers” these days, when Climate Doom is the default position of all but a few Greens. Over the past decade the Climate movement swallowed the broader Environmental movement, and in turn both were consumed in the United States by the Democratic Party. Every environment-related issue is framed in the context of climate change, and a new orthodoxy about how to fight climate change has emerged as well.
But it is fundamentally Neoliberal in approach, essentially relying on individual countries to agree to voluntary emissions reductions and broad public agreement that everyone has a personal duty to fight climate change. This is also the basic response policy makers in Europe and North America chose for dealing with the Covid pandemic, and we’ve seen how well that has worked, with more than a million dead in the richest parts of the planet.
Climate Change is set to follow the same path, with exponential impacts overwhelming linear actions taken by governments that have no real interest in protecting the poor. Costs of mitigation will be pushed onto countries and populations that can’t afford them, and targets will slip — by mid century 2C warming will be inevitable, and suddenly limiting warming to 2.5 degrees will be the mission… then 3C. The goalposts will shift because the hard truth is that responding to climate change requires a global reformation in the way government is done — and that isn’t something major political parties can envision or pursue, especially not in the United States.
Because no one in a position of leadership in this country will publicly admit that to stop the shift to a radically different climate regime every carbon-emitting activity must be reduced to he degree possible everywhere, as quickly as possible, with most mining and manufacturing eventually done in orbit. And this means dramatic investment in the developing world — which isn’t, by the way, a country-based concept any more. Parts of the United States itself are now effectively “developing” and require specific, targeted support.
Climate change is going to eat away at the ability of the poor to sustain themselves, but rich people are going to simply find a way to export carbon-emitting industries to other countries. This will let them both scold those other people for ruining the global climate and pat themselves on the back for having made sacrifices by buying Green products shipped in from Nigeria and Uruguay.
The United States of America, like the misbegotten myth of “Western Civilization” as a whole, needs to be rebuilt from the ground up. Unfortunately, this is true of most other countries as well.
The planet is rapidly approaching a turning point where either a global movement committed to actual democracy and human rights for all is able to spread across borders and forge a Global Nation or nationalism and nativism will surge, triggering violence that may merit the description “World War 3."